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The Boston Marathon Attack – How Did You React?

How do you react when you first learn about horrific events in the news such as this week’s bomb attacks at the finish line of the Boston Marathon?

Do you find yourself retreating?

Or do you find the opposite to be true and immediately turn to social media or others for additional information or support?

When I first learned of this horrible act of violence, I was busily tweeting away about the BRCA1 and 2 Gene Patent Case which was finally making its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Then I saw that first tweet about the bombings pass through the Twitter feed. It was merely minutes after the bombings had occurred – so swift, so incredibly soon.

After that first tweet, of course, many more immediately followed. The questioning, the seeking of more additional information and the speculating quickly began.

My reaction was quick as well.

I immediately stopped tweeting, while also perhaps selfishly realizing, that the gene patent Supreme Court hearings of that day would most definitely not be (and rightfully so) a prime time news story, or any story at all that day, nor any day soon.

The next thing I realized was that reading heart-wrenching tweets about such a tragic event entangled with other tweets, many about insignificant matters, suddenly felt very strange and then down-right impossible for me to do.

After a period of time, my reaction was to step away.

That was my reaction on December 14th as well; the day we all learned of the brutal shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That day, too, after a time I turned off all social media. I turned off my computer. I “turned off interaction” with others, perhaps attempting to separate myself from the noise and heartache of it all.

This is my pattern. When I learn about disturbing news and have absorbed what I can, I pull back. I retreat for a time.

Though not at all the same thing or anywhere even remotely close to the same magnitude, I realize this was also true the day I learned I had cancer. I’m certainly not comparing the situations, but rather my reaction to them.

The day I learned of my diagnosis I was okay with, perhaps even preferred, to be alone with the quiet for a time. I needed to absorb and process by myself first.

I’m certainly not saying this is the right way, but it does seem to be my way.

I’m writing about this because it’s something worth thinking about. It’s perhaps important to think about how you initially handle highly distressing news of any kind. At the very least, it’s perhaps thought-provoking to reflect a bit on how you react or do not react. It’s helpful, or might be, to figure out what coping mechanisms work best for you.

Do you retreat for a period of time (like I seem to do) when you learn of horrible news? Or do you tend to do the exact opposite and immediately turn outward to as many others as you possibly can?

It seems I prefer the quiet.

What about you?

Do you have a pattern in how you initially react to horrible news of any kind?

Do you turn to social media or turn it off when disturbing news is unfolding?

16 thoughts on “The Boston Marathon Attack – How Did You React?

  1. I have to step away from social media and all media when something like this happens. I give myself some time to listen to or read headlines and stories and to check in once or twice. Then I have to step away from it. I gave my dog a big hug when I heard the news and had some tears. I also first heard about it on twitter, before heading out for an afternoon run.

    1. Lindsay, Sometimes all the “noise” just gets to be too much doesn’t it? It must have been extra tough for you as a marathon runner to learn about this terrible news. So awful. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Eileen, Mostly, I find the social media platforms to be too much for me during breaking news of a serious nature. I can’t read tweets or facebook posts about trivial matters when mixed in with the serious stuff after hearing such news. I just have to turn it off. I did watch a fair amount of news coverage later that evening and then of course, I couldn’t sleep that night. And when serious stuff happens personally, again, I like the quiet and time alone. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I too prefer the quiet. But I also get pulled into reading some of the news. I usually keep that to small doses though. Some of it is too painful,and in the age of social media, some of it seems too private for a public forum. All the news outlets are trying to inform, but also attract, readers. That doesn’t always mesh. If I have a personal connection to a story, it impacts me more. As a marathoner myself, the news from Boston was particularly disturbing. My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the victims and their families. Thanks Nancy.

    1. Lisa, I can only imagine the extra horror for you as a marathon runner. Unimaginable heartache was inflicted on innocent people while they were doing/observing something you love and do personally. I agree with you about the news outlets. Sometimes one does wonder about the constant coverage and what the true motivation is behind that. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I remember as a child watching things going on around me. Wondering why the adults were so quiet, or not doing anything about what justice I saw. I think that formed me to be a get involved person. When I see heavy news, like in Boston or the loss in Texas with the plant explosion last night, I step away from media. If the news is local, I get involved. If not local, I donate. I don’t step back, but later, when others have moved on, that is when the sad hits. But I never regret stepping up to help.

    1. Terry, You know I hadn’t thought about that, Terry. Now that you mention it, I also remember observing adults around me when I was a child learning about horrific news events (and there were many) and wondering about the reactions. Perhaps many of us have to absorb things privately. I realize many like to get into the thick of things immediately and that’s perfectly fine too. In this we are all different too. Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

  4. Like you, I tend to want some alone time, or maybe it’s just time to reflect. Anyhow, I usually have a difficult time immediately wrapping my head around the magnitude of such horrible events.

    I felt bad on Monday because I posted a more light-hearted post with a picture of a sketching, and then the bombs went off. I wondered about the significance of my postings when the world seemingly was going mad.

    I guess I’m still having a hard time coping with this tragedy, but I realized that I should continue posting anyway. I can’t let this tragedy affect things that much for me.

    1. Beth, It’s not really possible to understand this type of event. Those who commit acts of terror think differently than most of us. It’s a lot to take in. Don’t worry about posting your sketch on the same day as the Boston bombings. In the midst of any tragedy life and normal things go on, as they should. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Beth.

  5. dear nancy,

    what a thought provoking post – it’s been a good chance to look deep inside and examine the response to the questions you’ve posed.

    though media coverage of unspeakable tragedy can be emotionally overwhelming, i have come to believe that paying witness is an important component of being a citizen of the universe. i also believe that the compassion, the longing for victims and their loved ones to feel our genuine empathy, our longing for broken bodies and hearts to be consoled and healed is a collective entity, not wasted into thin air, but one that unites with the same powerful emotions of others who feel those same things. it is the power, the triumph of good over bad, of love over hatred, of compassion over indifference that allows us the grace to want to help our fellow man, and perhaps be inspired to do something tangible to lend a hand.

    but i also try to remember that being too inundated with endless media coverage can be too overwhelming, too stressful – and that doesn’t help anyone.

    this is a great post, nancy. you’ve asked very relevant questions at a time when we all are hurting, and you have given us something to think about and to share with others that will help us know ourselves a little better. thank you so much!

    love, XOXO

    karen, TC

    1. Karen, Thanks so much for adding to this discussion. I completely agree with you that paying witness to horrible events is part of being a citizen. We all should, and mostly do come together during times of tragedy. We owe that to our fellow human beings. The support and empathy is very real and hopefully helpful. I just sometimes find it really difficult to take part in social media forums when there is also such trivial stuff mixed in. I seem to prefer unplugging from that for a while until I’ve given myself time to process a bit. I like to do that privately for a while I guess. Thanks so much for your comments, Karen.

  6. Interesting topic. Particularly since the overnight events in Boston. I react by turning on the tv and flipping channels to find out as much info as possible. At the time of the first Gulf War, long before the ubiquitous earphones I had some in a small battery powered radio that I wore through many grad school classes. My profs knew I was a Vietnam veteran (nurse) so they allowed my connection to what was happening. I suspect today will be a day like that. There comes a time when I will step away but it is usually much later than those in my immediate family.
    Meg

    1. Meg, I was almost afraid to turn on the tv this morning, but I did because like you, I wanted to learn more. How could I not? Still, I did this privately in my own home, not via social media. I’ll do that a bit later. Thank you for adding your unique insights, Meg.

  7. Nancy I watched listened saw the horror and shut off the TV. Sometimes we are just so over saturated with the media blitz in every nuance of everything and everybody around. Everyone has an opinion as to whether it was domestic or outside terrorism.. certain groups ere being blamed before any information was known and of course you have that identity thing that when it did turn out to be a couple of young extremists everyone of that faith is lumped as being a terrorist too. I despise that kind of behaviour from regular citizens. You naturally feel terrible at the abject violence, the loss of life the death of another child…. Then too reading about this young man hiding in the boat being 19 years old as a mother you wonder why he did this was he coerced by his older brother.. Did he have regrets as he lay there shot.. As for all the victims I prayed for them…however I also prayed for this young man in hopes that he will atone for murderous destruction he helped create this week…

    by the way Nancy this is my new blog address Love Alli….xx

    1. Alli, You are truly a kind soul thinking about and praying for the young man in the boat too, as his brother. I wonder how many would admit to that. It’s all so horrible. I did watch the coverage on TV in intervals. But I did pull away from social media at the onset for the reasons I stated in the post. We all handle this kind of thing differently too. That’s as it should be. Thanks for commenting. And thanks for the heads up on your new blog address! I will visit soon!

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